The Business Plan Not Found In Any Textbooks

Let me introduce you to “The Business Plan Not Found In Any Textbooks,” The History of Topiarius, Part 2 of 7.

Matter of fact, you would have seen dust all over the business books we bought.

We were too eager to get started, so we just followed the principle of not spending more than we earned (most of the time). And we guided ourselves by previous experience and through intuition.

We didn’t walk into this idea completely unawares. Before Topiarius, Craig’s background was in the green industry, i.e., he had about 6 years’ experience at landscape companies in addition to all the manual labor skills he learned throughout his youth. All this to say, he knew quite a bit about landscaping AND he really enjoyed the idea of being his own boss.

Before Topiarius, I had no background in the industry, only the experience of landscaping at our first home in MA. I did have a couple of professional jobs under my belt with plenty of degrees, but nothing related to business or agriculture at this point. I loved the idea of creating something that was all ours. 

So with some skill and a robust amount of boldness we developed our 6 step business plan, à la Topiarius style.

Topiarius Business Plan Collage

Step 1: We dreamt about starting our own landscaping company when working at our previous employment. Craig searched the interwebs for naming inspiration. Jenkins-Sutton Landscaping didn’t cut it. Craig found “Topiarius,” which means of or pertaining to ornamental gardening. We decided that the name is so great that we invested $4,000 in a logo so we had the right vibe. (Again, this is step 1. Uff da!)

Step 2: Sara got a new job as the Human Resource Assistant at North Park University, so we would have a (very tiny) income to at least pay bills and have medical insurance for the both of us. (Bonus: Ultimately I got my HR Certificate and took a couple business classes.)

Step 3: We bought a garden unit condo in Uptown because we sold our house in Massachusetts at the height of prices in 2003. We turned the 160 sq. foot back hallway (aka foyer), with no windows, into Topiarius HQ.

Step 4: The 92 Foster bus became my (not) favorite way to get to work because Craig needed our one vehicle. (See number 6.)

Step 5: Craig’s Massachusetts house-flip investment luckily got us $10,000 that became seed money and acted as a (very little) safety cushion. (We lived in MA for a few years and Craig got one house flipped before we moved back to Chicago.)

Step 6: Craig outfitted our green Ford Focus wagon with all the necessary tools to start a landscaping business –a shovel and some Home Depot Homer buckets. (Why would you think this wasn’t going to work?)

I shake my head now thinking about all we coulda, woulda, shoulda done, but . . . I also know that it’s okay that we started the way we did . . . cuz y’all we’re still here after 20 years stronger than ever. So we musta done something right!!!

If you missed part 1, click here. Continue to part 3



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